You'd be hard-pressed to meet a more passionate, committed advocate for quality storytelling than Margaret Pomeranz. As one-half of Australia's formidable power couple of film criticism, Margaret spent 28 years fighting the good fight for films she loved, especially when she came up against stiff opposition from her "stubborn" colleague/combatant, David Stratton.
Margaret's selections for her 10 of the Best reflect her passion for provocative storytelling, and movies that move you.
La Belle Noiseuse
(Jacques Rivette, 1991)
Margaret described this film by French New Wave director Jacques Rivette as "most extraordinary" in its depiction of the artistic process. It centres on an ageing artist, who finds inspiration again and reprises his abandoned masterpiece when he meets the beautiful girlfriend of his protege, played by Emmanuelle Béart. Running at almost four hours, this film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 1991 is "demanding, but exquisite".
(Steve James, 1994)
"It's absolutely riveting stuff, regardless of whether you're into basketball or not," said Margaret when she reviewed this cult documentary following the lives of two African American boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional. "It's not about sports this film, it's about life."
I Am Love
(Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
This was one of Margaret's highlights from the 2009 Venice Film Festival. A bored trophy wife (Tilda Swinton) embarks on a passionate affair with her son's friend, knowing full well that the exposure of their illicit fling could be her undoing. Margaret considers it "Italian melodrama at its most exquisite".
(Craig Monahan, 1998)
This "tantalising, innovative thriller" stars Hugo Weaving as a modest man, who finds himself suddenly seized from his apartment and interrogated by the police for what initially is presented as involving a stolen car, but its slowly revealed to involve a serial killing. Margaret said at the time that "a fantastic cast, snappy editing, and an intriguing sript make this a rewarding cinema experience."
(Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, 2003)
Paul Giamatti stars in this multi-award winning film, an original mix of fiction and reality that illuminates the life of comic book hero Harvey Pekar. Documentary makers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini used animation to tell his story, and "have been so clever about presenting this life, helped enormously by the real Harvey Pekar and by the extraordinary performances of Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis as Harvey and Joyce."
The Thin Blue Line
(Errol Morris, 1989)
Margaret was floored by the power of this crime documentary from Errol Morris, when she saw it. The slow revelations about a supposedly open-and-shut police investivation into the murder of a highway patrolman, make for "something really out of the ordinary as far as documentary filmmaking is concerned". In her book, it's a five-star film.
And guess what? David picked it too!
(Ana Kokkinos, 1998)
This brilliant and yet confronting film, the adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas' acclaimed book, was described by Margaret as "gutsy" and "an exhilarating piece of Australian filmmaking". Ari (played by Alex Dimitriades in a "knockout" performance) is caught between his Greekness, his Australianness, his gayness and his city of Melbourne. Ari jams all his energy and defiance, pain and joy into a night of dancing, sex and drugs.
(Nicole Kassell, 2004)
There's great compassion in the way this film handles the unsettling issue of a paedophile's re-entry into society. The way the film explores "the range of what it is to be human" is commendable, and Kevin Bacon gives an extraordinary performances as a man who can't bear the burden of what he is, and what he has done. "I don't think the film has any easy answers... and that makes it, really, very, very good film".
(Céline Sciamma, 2011)
To say Margaret loves this film is an understatement. "This is just a wonderful gem of a film. It makes you glad some people make movies." She says it's "as pure as you can get: it's observational, it's minimalist, there's no intrusive music except when it's part of the action". The fragile nature of a boyish young girl is "beautifully and compassionately presented by writer/director Céline Sciamma (Girlhood)".
Waltz with Bashir
(Ari Folman, 2008)
This fascinating animated film is the powerful account of director Ari Folman’s efforts to recover lost memories of his military service in Lebanon in 1982. Folman’s decision to render the images in stylised animation "adds another dimension entirely to the exploration of images and memory," said Margaret, and results in a ground-breaking depiction of atrocity and its far-reaching consequences.
Watch Margaret Pomeranz's reviews from The Movie Show archives
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